Text © Astrid Appels (this article expresses Appels' view on the competition).
Raphael Netz completed the job to perfection and bagged triple gold at the 2022 European Under 25 Championships in Pilisjaszfalu, Hungary, on Sunday 28 August 2022.
The 2022 Under 25 Europeans came to a conclusion Sunday morning with the freestyle finals after a week of competition during which Germany won team gold and Netz secured individual test gold.
The Kur to Music on Sunday was judged by Christof Umbach, Thomas Lang, Ulrike Nivelle, Hans Voser, and Orsolya Hillier.
Hattrick for Netz
The 23-year old Raphael Netz proved his mettle aboard Beatrice Burchler-Keller's 13-year old Hanoverian gelding Ferdinand BB (by Florencio x Lanciano) in Pilisjaszfalu. Not only did he top the board in the team test Intermediaire II, but he picked his first individual gold of the week in the Short Grand Prix and was the hot favourite for repeat gold in the freestyle.
Riding to a medley of classical operas such as Carmen and The Nutcracker, Netz steered Ferdinand with great ease through the Grand Prix programme. There was lots of crossing in the trot half passes, which were very even and balanced. An extended trot with a transition into piaffe followed, but the horse leant too much on the forehand and stayed croup high, despite a steady rhythm. The passage work was lovely. There was plenty of difficulty in the floorplan with piaffe turns, followed by passage and trot half passes, and a piaffe turn transitioning into a canter pirouette followed by an extended canter on the centerline. The horse stayed soft in the contact, but overall he should be more up in the poll and uphill oriented. A very nice ground covering extended walk with good relaxation was shown, but the rhythm in the collected walk was very edgy and close to being lateral (still scored 6.5 to 7.5!!). Also several canter pirouettes were ridden too big (7 - 8), but the tempi changes were correct. Netz finished with a nice final pi-pa line.
Overall it was a beautiful test with well crafted music to support the horse's gaits and to tell a story. In the real collected work (piaffe and pirouettes) Ferdinand still needs to develop more weight taking, but Netz presented a happy and willing horse with a good contact in the bridle. The judges rewarded it with an equally willing 79.435%. Four judges had him first, one (Umbach) second.
Netz certainly has found his groove in the Under 25 division. He has achieved individual medals on three different horses so far: bronze with Lacoste in 2020, gold and silver with Elastico in 2021, and double gold on Ferdinand BB in 2022. What will be in store for 2023?
Second Silver for Spain
Spaniard Alejandro Oliva Lazaro caused a sensation in the Short Grand Prix on Saturday by picking up a historic individual silver medal for himself and his country.
Aboard Juan Antonio Jimenez and Sylvia Fort Brescia De Mulder's bay gelding Décor (by Detroit x Herzensdieb), Oliva had all the cards in his hand to even go for gold with plenty of horse power to ride. It was all up to him to finish the job. The young professional rider, however, is only in his first season at international Grand Prix level and even though he showed good nerves with all the pressure on his shoulders, his freestyle was technically not at the same level as on Saturday. The halts were twice not immobile (score 7 - 8!), the extended walk had good rhythm and relaxation, but not the most overtrack, and there were mistakes in the two tempi changes. Throughout the test, the horse was too hand held and the poll not as highest point.
When it comes to music, Oliva probably had the swankiest freestyle. Riding to Tina Turner classics that really fit the floorplan, Oliva copied his trainer Juan Antonio Jimenez in riding canter half passes, transition to piaffe, and back into a canter half pass (Guizo freestyle). He repeated that movement with extended trots. There was very nice piaffe-passage in rhythm with the music. They finished riding to on Simply the Best in passage on the centerline.
The judges rewarded the test with a big 78.345%, good for a second silver. Three judges had them second, one third (Hillier), and one first (Umbach)/
Back to Bronze for Bech
Dutch based Danish rider Thea Bech concluded her dream week with a second individual bronze medal.
Aboard her ride of seven years, the 12-year old KWPN gelding Dionisos (by Spielberg x Sir Sinclair), she produced peak performances this week and exceeded all expectations. Especially in the Short Grand Prix the pair achieved a peak performance, which they couldn't match in the freestyle, even though the result was the same: bronze.
Bech rode to music from High School Musical and there was a fun play with the lyrics "You Are the Music in Me". The trot work at the start of the test looked rushed and the horse lost some of its suspension and elasticity, in the half passes and extended trot. The extended walk had good overtrack and clarity of rhythm, but the striding is a bit quick. Dionisos really shines in passage though: quick of the ground, regular, and balanced. In piaffe he can stay easily on the spot but stays quite horizontal in the top line instead of dropping the hindquarters. The tempi changes all worked and at the end of the test, Dionisos still had plenty of energy in the tank to finish with a strong piaffe-passage.
They scored 76.670% for a third place and bronze medal. Thea, who trains with Mathie Boomaars and Joyce Heuitink, now returns to The Netherlands to continue her fairly new job as a professional rider at Arie Yom Tov's Dutch sales and training facility Sport Pro Horses in Uden (NED).
A Shift on the Board
While the top five in the short Grand Prix was completed by German Alina Schrader on Paola and Danish Karoline Rohmann on Jakas Don Louvre, today a big shift on the board took place. Yesterday's 10th and 11th placed pair made a stellar surge on the score board and placed fourth and fifth today.
The 24-year old Danish Laura Thorup and the 12-year old Oldenburg stallion Blue Hors Veneziano (by Vivaldi x Donnerhall) just missed out on bronze and slotted in fourth. Riding to the Rolling Stones' Paint it Black amongst other tunes, Thorup showed expressive trot half passes, good pirouettes and nice two tempi changes. However, there was barely any overtrack in the extended trots (7 - 7.5) and overall in trot the horse is very hand-held with the poll rarely as the highest point and the mouth opening. The beautiful chestnut does have a lovely passage and a lot of ability to sit in piaffe, but was searching for the rhythm in the first one. The judges loved it all and saw the pair in fourth place with 75.355%.
Dutch Jessica Poelman climbed the ladder from an 11th spot yesterday to a fifth today. Aboard her 15-year old KWPN gelding Chocolate Cookie RDP (by Johnson x Livingstone), the 21-year old Poelman won double bronze at last year's Europeans, but this year could not find a similar medal winning form. In the freestyle they made a big come back as the judges rewarded her ride with 74.595% to round out the top five. The pair began with a piaffe-passage combination and piaffe pirouette, followed by an extended trot and then mirrored on the other lead. There was good crossing in the trot half passes and the horse kept a regular rhythm in the passage. The piaffe was no real piaffe though, as the gelding stayed very horizontal with the hindlegs out instead of under. He is able to keep a steady rhythm in this rather stretched position. This is a general observation, not just not with Chocolate Cookie: judges seem to prefer rhythm (and willingness) in piaffe over the ability to collect. They reward the former more than what is the true essence of piaffe is: collection and taking weight behind. And not just with U25 riders, but also in senior Grand Prix sport. Back to Chocolate Cookie: the passage was quick off the ground and floaty, the canter pirouettes sometimes had the hindlegs both together, there was a mistake in the ones, but the two's went more fluently. The horse stays very consistent in the head-neck position throughout the test.
Thalia Rockx and the 20-year old home bred Verdi de la Fazenda (by Floret Ass) performed to wonderfully arranged Avatar music and landed sixth place with 74.130%.
Karoline Rohmann and the 13-year old Danish bred Jakas Don Louvre (by Don Romantic x Lauries Crusador xx) were seventh. They rode to a potpourri of tunes, including classical music and Roxette hits. The chunky bay gelding appeared a bit tired today and his score was 74.020%
Home hero, Hungarian Jazmin Yom Tov, opted by a filmic soundtrack with quiet, atmospheric background music for her rode on the lovely 9-year old Westfalian For Joy (by Feedback x Donnerbube II). The bay gelding with blaze and blue eye seems to give his rider an easier, lighter ride than her two former partners and this elegance shows off. They were eighth with 73.955%.
Belgian Nico Nyssen surprised all when he started riding to freestyle music pretty much identical to Carina Cassoe Kruth's kur for Heiline's Danciera based on Dirty Dancing (Time of my Life) and the Fame soundtrack. Borrowed, copied, loaned, or a creative burn-out of the freestyle designer? One wonders! Nyssen piloted Farrington (by Jazz x Samba Hit) to a 9th place with 73.715%. The pair showed plenty of promise today with good passage work and trot half passes, but the piaffe was unbalanced, and it all looked a bit too much of a work-out today, compared to their sweet ride yesterday.
The 24-year old German Alexa Westendarp completed the top 10 on a score of 73.685%. Aboard her home bred Hanoverian mare Four Seasons (by Furstenball x Fidertanz) she rode to Conquest of Paradise and the soundtrack of Rain Man. The passage was floaty and Westendarp was very good at keeping a fluent rhythm from movement to movement, from straight lines into lateral exercises. The pirouettes were voltes though and in piaffe the mare is too much on the forehand, but the trot extensions and half passes were strongly ridden.
This concludes the 2022 European Under 25 Championships. Next year young Grand Prix riders will have to return to the same show grounds at Stable Unikornis in Pilisjaszfalu as it will be the return venue for the European Young Riders and Under 25 Championships in 2023.
Text by Astrid Appels - Photos © Lukasz Kowalski
Scores: 2022 European Children and Under 25 Championships
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2022 European Children/Under 25 Championships